Sunday 20 June 2021
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Men are the answer for gender equality

According to the Women Action for Development (WAD) Director, Salatiel Shinedima it takes a courageous man to advocate for gender equality.
“I started advocating for gender equality because I understand the background we come from. Colonialism and apartheid played its role and after independence it remains a reality that many women do not enjoy freedom in the same measures as men.
I started to internalise realties such as rape culture, gender-based violence and overall unequal gender representation in decision making to imagine how fearful life must be as a woman. The fear of abuse by a partner, a stranger and even in the workplace” said Shinedima.
WAD is Namibia’s leading gender equality advocacy organisation founded in 1994 with a two-pronged approach on socio-economic and socio-political empowerment of rural men and women.
Shinedima shared that he expected resistance from men and women alike for taking on the challenge to lead a women’s organisation.
“Instead many people were surprised, and a delegation visited our offices once asking how I manage to do my job. I answered that gender equality is a human issue, not a male or female issue so a man or woman can equally advocate for gender equality” he said.
Shinedima pointed out that WAD lauds the efforts of government to attain gender parity in leadership positions through quotas in the National Assembly but believes the National Council is where the real challenge is when it comes to women representation as this reflects the depth of gender inequality at constituency level as well.
“It is important that both men and women at regionally level vote for women councillors because there is a lot of work to do at the grassroots of our societies to dispel gender unequal stereotypes and cultural practice” he motivated.
Also challenging gender stereotypes is youth activist and gender advocate, Lowbousky Kaalushu who believes that just because men choose not to advocate for gender equality does not mean that women do not experience gender inequality.
“We cannot run away from gender inequality, whether it affects you directly or indirectly as a man.
It is important to be an active participant towards levelling the ground for both boys and girls. Similarly, not all women are ignorant to gender inequality and it is up to us to engage fellow men” added Kaalushu.
Kaalushu is the co-founder of a youth project called ‘Project Motivate’ that aims to mentor learners, distribute sanitary pads in schools and provide Career guidance. As an active member of Young Achievers Empowerment Project, Kaalushu shared that he chose to be an agent of change in society regardless of his gender, age and limited budget.
“I was teased by some guys for starting this project and this shows you that the mentality of a man on women’s rights is something that needs to be engaged with. My earliest memory of when I realised that girls are more disadvantaged then boys was in high school when a female friend of mine would sometimes tell me she is not feeling well and would abscond from school because of her periods.
I later discovered that it was because she struggled to afford sanitary pads. This challenged me greatly because I felt that someone had to stand up for girls like her. I also never understood why the Head boy was more respected then a Head girl” explained Kaalushu.
According to Kaalushu, work needs to be done in schools because many young boys in Namibia do not have mentors.
“I have discovered that some of the gender related challenges women experience are because there were no men in the lives of these young boys to teach them to respect women just as they want to be respected.
So, I personally go to Acacia High, Immanuel Shifidi, Augustineum Secondary at different times in the week to have mentorship sessions with a handful of boys” he shared.
Project Motivate was successfully launched in Windhoek in February and attracted 800 learners from high schools and tertiary students as well for career guidance. The next phase of the project is targeted for Ongwediva, with plans to roll it out to the regions at a later stage.  “I own a hot dog stand and used proceeds from it to organise this event.
There was a church that wanted us to first become members to help us, but we refused because if someone really wants to help then it should not be about popularity or sinister motives but about people.
So, for now we do not have funding partners to continue the project, but we welcome potential partners to engage with us on how we can continue the work we do” appealed Kaalushu.

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